Earth Day highlights double impact of COVID-19 and climate change

Tuesday, April 21, 2020
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A dried up water pond in Zimbabwe’s Binga district. Zimbabwean farmers who have been faced with months of drought are now coping with market closures due to COVID-19, making it nearly impossible for them to get enough food or earn a livelihood. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a day to show our care for the earth and to recognize the challenges faced by many of the world’s poorest people as they struggle to adapt to changing weather patterns and grow enough food to feed their families. This year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Foodgrains Bank senior policy advisor Naomi Johnson asks us to remember those who will be doubly impacted.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted all of our lives. From social norms, to livelihoods and security, or health and wellbeing, communities at home in Canada and abroad are feeling the effects of COVID-19.

Those who are already vulnerable, including the poor, elderly, disabled, women and girls, indigenous people and people in conflict zones, are bearing additional hardships during this crisis. And then there are vulnerable populations who are not only coping with a global pandemic but are dually affected by the impacts of climate change.

In Zimbabwe, farmers who have been faced with months of drought are now coping with market closures, making it nearly impossible for them to get enough food or earn a livelihood. Residents in the small island nations of the South Pacific have been grappling with how to balance disaster response from Cyclone Harold with controlling the spread of COVID-19. Adding to this hardship, crops destroyed during the disaster are further contributing to food insecurity in these communities.

With monsoon, heat wave and cyclone season approaching, many communities are bracing to be doubly impacted by COVID-19 and erratic weather caused by climate change.

How do you maintain social distancing while providing emergency shelter? How do you ensure people have access to water and food when production and supply chains have been disrupted? How do you provide healthcare and medical treatment to people impacted by disasters when hospitals are already working at maximum capacity? These are the difficult decisions that communities around the world must grapple with.

Significant uncertainty adds to the complexity. How severe will the effects be? Will we find a way to overcome the impacts? How will the effects of the pandemic and climate change exacerbate each other?

We’re all in this together

The solution to this unprecedented challenge requires a global response. There are no borders to these challenges: We’re all in this together, and we should all respond together. We must continue supporting the poor and marginalized, including girls and women, and those faced with compounding hardships due to climate change.

At Canadian Foodgrains Bank, we have seen how Canadians can make a difference in the world. It is through our supporters’ collective efforts and concern for their neighbours worldwide that we enable vulnerable people to have enough food.

Amid their own hardships due to COVID-19, we are continuing to see support from our generous donors. And the work they champion continues. Foodgrains Bank members are committed to continuing its food security programming, building more resilient communities, and working with the government to confront these significant global challenges by supporting those most vulnerable.

Today and everyday, lets continue to remember those who are doubly impacted by COVID-19 and climate change.

– Naomi Johnson, Senior Policy Advisor

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